Overview

Brief Summary

The dangerously venomous Fea's Viper (Azemiops feae) was first described from Myanmar, where it is known from Kachin State. It is also known to occur in southern & central China (western Yunnan and Shanxi east to Zhejiang and south to Guangxi) and northern Vietnam. Little is known about the natural history of this species, but it reportedly inhabits mountain terrain at elevations between 1000-2000 m. It has also been found in degraded habitats such as paddy, grass fields, and in and about villages. Historical records from Myanmar indicate that it occurs in the Northern Triangle subtropical forest and the Nujiang Langcang Gorge’s alpine-conifer and mixed-deciduous forest. (Leviton et al. 2003 and references therein) Andrew Durso provides an interesting summary of much of what is known of this species in his "Life is short, but snakes are long" blog.

Marx and Olechowski (1970) documented the presence of the common gray shrew (Crocidura attenuata) in the highlands of Xikang (western Sichuan, China), based on its presence in the stomach of a Fea's Viper specimen (at the time just the 11th specimen of this species collected, although many more have been collected in subsequent years).

Murphy (2014) provides some notes on the difficulty of keeping snakes of this species in captivity, but reports that a hatchling was produced at Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina (U.S.A.).

Leviton et al. (2003) provide a technical description of Fea's Viper: No sensory pit between nostril and eye; body cylindrical; head flattened, above covered with large, symmetrical shields; nostrils large, in single completely differentiated nasal; loreal shield present, small; 2 pre- and 2 postoculars; eye with vertically elliptic pupil; scales smooth, in 17 longitudinal rows at midbody; ventrals 180-189, subcaudals 42-53, mostly paired, occasionally anterior shields undivided; blackish above, scales often edged with gray, 14-15 narrow white or pinkish crossbands, sometimes interrupted middorsally, or alternating with one another laterally; head yellow with a pair of dark brown to black stripes of somewhat irregular width extending from prefrontals to the black color on the neck. Total length: males 925 mm, females 820 mm; tail length: males 100 mm, females 80 mm

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Distribution

Range Description

This snake is found in southern and central China, from western Yunnan and southern Shaanxi east to Zhejiang, south to Guangxi. It ranges into northern Myanmar and northern Viet Nam (Zhao 1993). It has been found at elevations of 100 to 2,200 m asl.
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Continent: Asia
Distribution: N Myanmar (= Burma), N Vietnam S/C China (from W Yunnan and S Shaanxi east to Zhejiang, south to Guangxi; Kweichow, Sichuan, Fujien, Jiangxi,), SE Tibet. Elevation 600-1500 m.  
Type locality: Kakhyen Hills, Burma
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This viper lives in mountainous areas, above altitudes of 2,000 feet (610 m). It is found in open areas, rocky areas, sometimes in villages, and also in forest or shrubland. The largest specimens are just under thirty inches in length. The diet in the wild is unknown, one captive specimen fed upon small pre-killed laboratory mice. They are reported to be oviparous, and lay about six eggs.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
Lau, M. & Rao, D.-q.

Reviewer/s
Cox, N.A. & Bauder, J.

Contributor/s
Nguyen, T.Q.

Justification
Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, presumed large population, and because it is unlikely to be declining fast enough to qualify for listing in a more threatened category.
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Population

Population
It is a uncommon species, but may be under-recorded due to its secretive habits and limited field surveys for this snake (D-q. Rao pers. comm. March 2012). It is described as being very rare in Vietnam (Q.T. Nguyen pers. comm. March 2012). Although some population decline is possible as a result of exploitation for the international pet trade, due to this snake's rarity and low overall levels of exploitation, this is not thought likely to approach 30% over a ten-year period (M. Lau pers. comm. March 2012).

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
There appear to be no significant threats to this species, which survives in degraded habitats and has a large range. As a cryptic and apparently rare snake, however, there is little information on threats generally (M. Lau pers. comm. March 2012). There is some exploitation of the species for the pet trade, where it is in high demand among hobbyists with an interest in rare and attractive vipers. This is however a minority interest among reptile keepers, and consequently the overall level demand for this snake is "rather small" (M. Lau pers. comm. March 2012). While the pet trade is only considered to be a minor threat at present due to the limited level of exploitation, this situation requires monitoring (D-q. Rao pers. comm. March 2012).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
No conservation actions are currently known for this species. It is present in some protected areas. More information is needed on this species' distribution, population status, natural history and threats. There is a need to review the trade in this species, including monitoring of both local markets in China and of internet-based international trade (D-q. Rao pers. comm. March 2012) and possibly introduce regulations on exports. The species is not presently listed on CITES.
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